– Ralf Rangnick’s reign at Manchester United got off to a winning start thanks to a stunning strike from the much-maligned Fred to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.
– A bright start from the Red Devils fizzled out without reward and the German looked like he might have to settle for a disappointing draw in his first match since taking charge until the end of the season.
– But Fred, who had been a target for much of the criticism towards the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as manager, produced a moment of magic with a curling effort on his weaker right foot 13 minutes from time to snatch a crucial victory.
– United move back to within three points of the top four and up to sixth in the Premier League table.
– There were no immediate changes from Rangnick in the lineup as he named an unchanged side from Thursday’s 3-2 win over Arsenal.
– But there was an instant change in approach as United pressed Palace into coughing up possession deep inside their own half twice in the first five minutes.
– However, there was a lack of precision to match United’s intensity.
– Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally of goals for club and country to 801 with a double in midweek, but his long wait to net from a free-kick goes on as his effort from the edge of the box did not dip in time.
– Ronaldo also had a shot blocked by Marc Guehi after deciding against hitting Bruno Fernandes’ dinked pass first time.
– United’s best chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Fred, but his goalbound effort was bravely diverted behind by James Tomkins.
– Fernandes finally tested Vicente Guaita from Ronaldo’s knockdown before Diogo Dalot fired wastefully over on his weaker left foot with the last kick of the first half.
– However, United’s early enthusiasm to impress their new boss drained away as the second-half performance more closely resembled the final days of Solskjaer’s reign.
– Palace should have gone in front 15 minutes from time when Jordan Ayew somehow turned Tomkins’ header back across goal and beyond the reach of Guehi at the back post.
– Rangnick comes with a reputation of putting his faith in young players and showed that as he sacrificed Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford for Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga in search of a winner.
– Greenwood made a telling contribution as it was from his layoff that Fred looped the ball over Guaita.
– After a promising start to Patrick Vieira’s time at Palace, the Eagles have now failed to win in their past four and the Frenchman’s caution helped United towards a first clean sheet at Old Trafford in 16 games.
– Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze were only introduced off the bench with six minutes remaining, but had little time to make an impact as a nervy United held out.